The Ridiculously Good Cucumber Salad I Keep Coming Back To
Every year as the weather warms and summer inches closer, I make a mental list of the seasonal favorites I absolutely have to make. My list always includes classics like burgers, lemonade, and buttery corn on the cob, and fresh fruit desserts like strawberry shortcake and blueberry crisp. But at the very top of the list is always my mom’s creamy cucumber and tomato salad. It was a staple of my childhood, and so to me it’s what summer tastes like.
My mom has been making this salad for as long as I can remember. It was a summer tradition in our house — not a special-occasion tradition, but a weekly (and sometimes nightly) one. No matter what she served as the main course, this salad was always eaten up first. We devoured every fresh and creamy bite, going back for seconds, then thirds, vying for the very last slices of cucumber and chunks of tomato in the bottom of the bowl and spooning them onto our plates along with every last drop of the creamy, tangy dressing. In fact, it’s the punchy tang of that light and creamy dressing that’s kept me coming back all these years.
Yes, Mayo Really Does Make the Best Dressing for Cucumber Salad
This salad is somewhere in between a tangy, vinegar-based cucumber salad and a rich and creamy one made with sour cream dressing. And that’s all thanks to the mayonnaise-based dressing. Mayo has a delightfully sweet tang that’s different from the tang of sour cream or Greek yogurt — and a little goes a long way. This salad needs just a little bit of dressing to coat the vegetables. When left to sit before serving, the liquid from the cucumbers and tomatoes thins the dressing and mellows it slightly.
How to Make My Mom’s Cucumber and Tomato Salad
My mom isn’t really one for following recipes, a quality I was reminded of when I asked her about the specifics of this dressing. “It depends on the amount of cucumber and tomato,” she told me. “Just a big spoonful of mayo, a pour of red wine vinegar, and a small splash of milk to taste. I’ve never measured it.” If you’re skeptical about the milk, I was, too — until I learned that it boosts the creaminess factor and works to thin the dressing without adding any extra acidity.
To create this salad at home, whisk together 1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, (an optional) 1/2 teaspoon milk (preferably whole or 2%), and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add 1 large peeled and thinly sliced cucumber and 1 large (or 2 small) ripe, chopped tomato and toss to coat. Let the salad sit at least 30 minutes (although the longer the better) before serving.